Buying Xenia at City Council

During the February 12 City Council meeting, Dale Louderback read part of a study demonstrating the value of buying from local businesses. Some major benefits relevant to “Buy Xenia” are as follows:

For every $100 in consumer spending with a local firm, $68 remains in the local economy.
For every $100 in consumer spending with a chain firm, $43 remains in the local economy.
For every square foot occupied by a local firm, local economic impact is $179.
For every square foot occupied by a chain firm, local economic impact is $105.
Over 70% prefer to patronize locally-owned businesses.
Over 80% prefer traditional urban business districts.
Local merchants generate substantially greater economic impact than chain firms.
Replacement of local businesses with chains will reduce the overall vigor of the local economy.
Changes in consumer spending habits can generate substantial local economic impact.
Great care must be taken to ensure that public policy decisions do not inadvertently disadvantage locally owned businesses. Indeed, it may be in the best interests of communities to institute policies that directly protect them.

(Source: Andersonville Study of Retail Economics)

Louderback apparently shared this important information to spur discussion concerning the City’s purchases of out-of-town businesses instead of local ones. He raised some doubt about the lack of Council support for buying from local suppliers. He got only two responses. Mayor Penewitt assured him that she has always promoted local buying. Bill Miller reminded Council that ex-councilman Gordon was also a supporter. Louderback retorted by challenging the mayor to vote against several proposed purchases.

As interesting as Louderback’s goading fellow council members is, the point is only one other council members publicly proclaimed their support of local businesses. I suspect most member do, but it is still sad that most failed to assure the public of it. After all, we are in a serious economic crisis.

Mayor Penewitt did ask the Director of Finance about what criteria was used to determine when the city purchased goods or services locally. There is no local preference policy about buying locally as it was before the 1973 tornado when Xenia was a thriving retail hub in Greene County. The only criterion determining scheduled purchases is when the amount is $7,500 or more. At that level of spending, “staff is encouraged to get competitive quotes and they encourage local purchasing of goods and services when it is in the best interest financially for the city to do so.”

According to Bazalek, “there used to a Greene County preference ordinance years ago to use businesses in Greene County if their selling price was 5% greater or less, but that was repealed a number of years ago.”

Councilman Louderback said he has done his homework and has spoken to every business in Xenia. Local businesses state they will match or beat the prices. We have been talking about this for over a year. City staff knows local businesses will match or beat the prices, so why do we keep discussing it week after week.

Maybe Council should reinstate the local preference policy. That alone might encourage more local entrepreneurs to start businesses in their hometown. What do you think?

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